New Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson says that teenager Benji Kimpioka has something to offer the club in their battle to return to the Championship this season, after handing him his first appearance of the season against Tranmere on Tuesday.
Kimpioka hadn’t played since April for the Black Cats senior side after owner Stewart Donald had told Parkinson’s predecessor Jack Ross, not to select the midfielder until he signs a new contract at The Stadium of Light, with the 19-year-old’s current deal with the club set to expire at the end of this season.
Despite that, Kimpioka was introduced by Parkinson as a late substitute in Tuesday’s 5-0 win, and the Sunderland boss has now confirmed that the Sweden Under 21 international will be in contention again when the Black Cats travel to Shrewsbury on Saturday.
Should Phil Parkinson use Benji Kimpioka for Sunderland this season?
Speaking about Kimpioka ahead of that match, Parkinson told The Chronicle: “From my point of view, I have only just started having a look at him and I need to get to know the U23 players because we are going to need a few of them to supplement the squad.
“But Benji looked like a dangerous player, someone who can make things happen. He trained with us again yesterday and he is in the squad for the weekend.”
Assessing what his return to the side means for Kimpioka, Parkinson continued: “It’s an opportunity for him, and even though he only got three or four minutes against Tranmere I told him to go and play with enthusiasm, and he lifted the crowd with a couple of runs.
“When young players come into the first team they have to make their mark, they have to make a statement and if he is involved at the weekend we look forward to seeing what he can offer.”
It also seems as though Parkinson was unaware of the conditions set out to his predecessor about playing the contract rebel, and that a lack of numbers had forced his hand into involving Kimpioka in the win over Tranmere, as he concluded: “That wasn’t mentioned to me, but it was a case of needs must because we are short of players at the moment due to injuries, and with Aiden [McGeady] being suspended the other night [against Tranmere].”
Following that win in midweek, Sunderland are now eighth in the League One standings, and only find themselves outside the play-off places on goal difference.
I think this is a sensible move from Parkinson.
While the future of Kimpioka is uncertain, he is still a Sunderland player for now, so it makes sense to use him while that remains the case.
Indeed, the importance of promotion to Sunderland this year is pretty clear for all to say, meaning that if Kimpioka is someone who can help them to do that, then they shouldn’t hold back from turning to him.
It is worth noting that if he can help Sunderland earn that promotion back to the Championship, then that a return to his place in the side, and the club’s climb back up the pyramid, may even tempt the teenager into signing a new deal at the club.